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Top 10 races of all time in F1

Bharat Chaudhry
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Formula 1 has got a long history. Throughout this time there have been several great drivers in the sport, and with great drivers, there also have been great races.

Since its inception in 1950, more than 850 Formula 1 races have been held at different parts of the world. Thus, it is near to impossible to pick just 10 best races out of the plethora of races.

Below, I have tried to enlist the most exciting and enthralling races, which had audiences on the edge of their seats. But I have not included controversial races like the 1989 and 1990 Japanese Grand Prix, 2010 Turkish Grand Prix, or the more recent the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix.

All the entries below are solely based on the main objective of Formula 1 that is pure racing.

10) 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix

The 2012 Formula 1 Season came down to the last race of the season. Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari, trailed Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull by just 13 points. The mixed conditions during the race, provided for one of the most gripping finales in Formula 1.

Hamilton took pole, while the championship rivals Alonso and Vettel were 7th and 4th respectively. At the start, Alonso made a cracking start and made up to fifth, while his rival dropped back to seventh.

Vettel was struggling and at turn 4, collided with Bruno Senna, due to which he dropped down to the back of the grid and had also sustained damage on his diffuser. While during this time, Massa helped his teammate Alonso in overtaking Webber, which moved him up to third and in championship winning place, but he lost this place to Hulkenberg a few laps later.

Vettel had been consistently moving up the field, when it started to rain and he and several other drivers had to pit for wet tires. After the pits, Vettel was fifth and Alonso just ahead of him in fourth. But Vettel was overtaken by Massa and Kobayashi, which dropped him down further.

After the leaders Hulkenberg and Hamilton collided with each other, Alonso moved upto second, again with the help of his teammate Massa. Vettel was now running seventh, which was enough, but he got sixth place as a gift, when Schumacher let him go by without a fight in the final race of his career.

The race finally ended under safety car due to Paul di Resta’s crash and Vettel crossed the finish line to become the youngest ever triple world champion.

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9) 2005 Japanese Grand Prix

The 2005 Japanese Grand Prix, held at the legendary Suzuka Circuit, unfolded in an unexpected way as both Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso drove an impressive drive to get to the podium. Especially, Raikkonen’s move on Fisichella on the last lap gave adrenaline rush to lot of fans watching the race

In qualifying, Ralf Schumacher took advantage of wet conditions to take pole, while the McLaren’s of Raikkonen and Montoya were 17th and 18th, and the championship leader Alonso was 16th.

In contrast to the previous day, the sun was shining bright on the race day. At the start of the race, Ralf Scumacher lead, as Fisichella passed Button for second, Alonso moved up to eighth, while Raikkonen struggled and conceded several positions.

Later in the race, after Ralf’s pitstop, Fisichella was promoted into the lead. Well behind him, Alonso went around the outside of Michael Schumacher and overtook him. Then, Raikkonen hounded Schumacher for a while until their pitstops and they both came out ahead of Alonso.

Later, Raikkonen passed Schumacher for fourth and set in pursuit of Button and Webber, while, Alonso started to close the gap to Raikkonen, after passing Schumacher. During this time Fisichella had a healthy lead of 20 seconds over Button. Raikkonen, then charged through Button and Webber and went in pursuit of Fisichella. As the end of the race approached, Kimi closed the gap between him Fisichella to just 5 seconds, while Alonso went past Webber for a spot on the podium.

At the first corner of the last lap, Raikkonen masterfully went to the outside of Fisichella and snatched the lead from him. He eventually won the race, with the two Renault’s behind him.

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8) 1988 Japanese Grand Prix

This year’s Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka was one of the most terrific drives of Senna’s career, albeit under the pressure of losing the championship and it showed truly how great a racer he really was.

The 1988 Formula 1 season went down to the wire between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, who had practically dominated the whole season.

In qualifying, Senna outpaced Prost to take pole position, which had almost for the whole season, been exchanged between the two.

At the start, Senna unexpectedly stalled his engine, while Prost blazed through to take the lead. Senna eventually got going, but he was now down in 14th place, and had a lot of catching up to do. He then started to move up the grid, passing six cars by the end of second lap, and getting ahead of four more cars at the end of fourth lap to gain fourth place. Around lap 14, rain arrived, which made it a fovourable condition for Senna, while Prost was having troubles with his gearbox.

As the race progressed, Senna was closing in on Prost. At lap 27, Senna was just behind the tail of Prost’s McLaren. On this lap, as they were crossing the backmarkers, Senna managed to force his way through, when Prost had been slowed by Andrea de Cesaris’ Rial. Senna, then went on to win the race and also the title.

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7) 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix

The Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos, held host to one of the closest battles for the championship in recent history. Lewis Hamilton arrived at Brazil with 94 points, 7 points ahead of the Brazilian Felipe Massa. Hamilton needed to finish only fifth or higher to become champion, but the race went down to the wire.

Massa grabbed pole, while Hamilton was fourth. The race was delayed by around 10 minutes due to rain. At the start, Massa got a perfect getaway and lead the pack, and slowly as the track dried up, he extended his lead further. Lewis Hamilton on the other hand, gave all his strength to maintain or move higher than fifth place. The latter part of the race was again hit by rain, due to which many drivers pittted for wet tyres.

When Hamilton came out after the pits, he joined in sixth place. He had Vettel just behind him and could not afford to let him pass, but when he slid wide on a corner, Vettel grabbed the opportunity and overtook him. Still at the last lap, Hamilton was in sixth place, trying to catch Vettel, but now Vettel had overtook Glock, who had not pitted and slowly his race pace was dying away.

Hamilton was informed about him on the radio, and as Massa took the chequerd flag to win the race, Hamilton overtook Glock at the last corner of the race to gain fifth position and moreover also the championship. Thus, Hamilton became World Champion by just one point, in what was one of the most nail biting finales of recent history.

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6) 1984 Monaco Grand Prix

The Monaco Grand Prix of this year, although controversial, but saw great performances from future F1 stars like Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna.

Alain Prost took pole position, he was joined on the front row by Nigel Mansell, while Ayrton Senna had qualified 13th in his uncompetitive Toleman.

The Race day was greeted by heavy showers, due to which, the start was delayed by 45 minutes. At the start, Prost made a perfect getaway, closely followed by Mansell, while Senna climbed up from 13th to 9th by the end of the first lap. Mansell, who was just behind Prost, overtook him for the lead. But, his lead didn’t last long, as he crashed out on lap 16. Prost, now again led the race, followed by Lauda and in third place Senna.

After getting past Lauda, Senna now hounded Prost for the lead. During all the action at the front, remarkably Stean Bellof, who had qualified last on the grid, was now behind Senna and closing the gap to him. Senna was now consistently closing in on Prost and had closed the gap to just under 10 seconds, when Prost started to wave frantically at the start/finish line to stop the race.

Finally, on lap 31, the race was stopped. If the race had progressed further, then surely Senna would have caught Prost within a few laps, if his pace had continued. Although stopped in between, this race remains amongst the most memorable Formula 1 races and Monaco grands prix of all time.

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5) 1993 European Grand Prix

The 1993 European Grand Prix at Donington Park saw one of the finest drives from one of Formula 1’s greatest drivers Ayrton Senna. During the season, Williams were the team to beat who were reaping all the benefits of their superior traction control. In this Grand Prix, Senna showed that even if in an inferior car he can still beat his rivals if the conditions favored him.

Throughout the season, the Williams duo of Alain Prost and Damon Hill dominated in qualifying and similar was the case in this race, where Prost took pole followed by Hill in second while Senna was down in fourth behind Schumacher.

The race day was greeted with rain and it was raining quite heavily, but the rain showers had suspended just enough for the grand prix to start. At the start, Prost led the pack, while Schumacher blocked Senna, which gave away third place to Wendlinger. Senna passed Schumacher at the third corner and then went past Wendlinger on the outside at Craner Curves.

As he climbed the hill, he went to the inside of Hill and took second place. Senna was now just behind Prost and when they reached Melbourne Hairpin, Senna went to the inside and took the lead. Thus, just within ten corners, he moved up from fifth to first. At the end of second lap, Senna had a lead of 4.2 seconds, but this lead started to shrink when the track began drying up.

Then, at around lap 20 it started to rain again, due to which everyone pitted for wet tyres, Senna stayed out on slicks and further extended his lead before pitting for wets. The track then dried once again and everyone pitted for dry tires, but Senna lost his lead due to the cross threading of his right rear wheel nut during his pitstop.

The rain then returned once again and race leader Prost and his teammate once again took wet tires, before stopping again for dry tires. This time Prost stalled his engine and when he got going, he was a lap behind Senna and in fourth place. The uncertain weather continued for the remaining part of the race. Senna then went on to win the race and Prost finished third, albeit a lap down.

This is another race, which shows the mastery of Ayrton Senna on wet tracks, where even his rival and F1 great Alain Prost proved no match to him.

4) 1987 British Grand Prix

The British Grand Prix at Silverstone witnessed one of the most titanic battles for the victory between Williams’ driver Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet.

Piquet had got the pole with Mansell just behind him. At the start, Alain Prost surged ahead of the two Williams into the lead, but it did not last long, as he was soon overtaken by both of them. After this, the battle for the victory closed down to them, as both Prost and Senna could not catch them.

Halfway through the race, Piquet was leading, while Mansell just a few seconds behind him was struggling. It seemed that a wheel weight had fallen from his car, which was causing the car to vibrate, due to which Mansell struggled in his driving. With Senna further back in third place, the team decided to pit him to solve the problem.

Mansell then joined the race, now 29 seconds behind Piquet. After this, Mansell charged through lap after lap, closing the gap to his teammate and in the process, broke the lap record an astonishing 11 times. Finally, at the second last lap of the race, Piquet fell for a dummy move down the Hangar Straight, and Mansell reeled in inside at the Stowe corner to pass him for the lead and later took the chequered flag.

This remains one of Mansell’s emphatic victories and also easily one of the greatest in Formula 1.

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3) 1971 Italian Grand Prix

The Italian Grand Prix, primarily held at Monza, has given some high speed and nail biting showdowns in its glorious past. The showdown for the victory this year is etched in people’s memory as one of the greatest of all time. This race also set the record for the fastest average speed, with 242.615 km/h, a record which will only be broken 32 years later at the same track.

Chris Amon in his Maseratti took pole position, with Ickx in his Ferrari alongside him. Followed by Siffet and Ganley in their BRMs on the second row, Cevert and Peterson on the third row, and Stewart and Regazzoni on the fourth row. At the first lap, Regazzoni took the lead, but it did not last long, as there was huge tussle for the lead among numerous drivers. After Regazzoni, Peterson led, and then Stewart led before Regazzoni came back in the lead.

Later, both Stewart and Regazzoni retired from the race. After this, Amon took the lead for a while, but had to drop back later due to engine troubles. The fight among the five cars for the lead then lasted for the whole race. Gethin, after a huge tussle with his rivals, emerged victorious by a scarcely believable 0.10 seconds from Peterson. In fact, all the five cars finished within a distance of 0.61 seconds, with Gethin and Peterson followed by Cevert, Hailwood and Gainley.

Overall, eight drivers led the race, exchanging the lead twenty four times during the fifty five lap race.

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2) 1957 German Grand Prix

The German Grand Prix, held at the great Nurburgring this year, is remembered for the display of absolute masterclass by one the greats of the sport, Juan Manuel Fangio. This year, he had stormed to the title, with no one able to catch him and after one of his great drives; he won his fifth and final title.

At the Qualifying session, pole position went to Fangio, driving a Maseratti, he was joined on the front row by Ferrari drivers Hawthorn and Collins and teammate Behra. After the first few laps of the race, Collins and Hawthorn went into the lead, but Fangio bounced back and took the lead on the third lap.

But earlier, Fangio had settled on a strategy that in contrast to the Ferrari drivers, who were going to race on a full fuel tank and without a pit-stop, he decided to run on softer tyres and half fuel load to give him extra speed round the corners, but this also necessitated a pit stop during the race.

Having a lead of over 30 seconds over his nearest rival Collins, Fangio came to his pit-stop, which went horribly wrong, as the mechanic had lost the wheel nut of the rear left wheel, when Fangio finally joined the race, he was down in 3rd, 48 seconds behind Collins in 2nd place.

From this point, began his charge to catch the rivals, during which he broke the lap record a jaw dropping nine times to finally close in on Collins’ 2nd place albeit at the second last lap of the race. Finally, after a long chase, he passed his rivals Collins and Hawthorn to claim the victory and his fifth world title.

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1) 1981 Spanish Grand Prix

The Spanish Grand Prix at Jarama, saw one of the most impressive victory of Gilles Villeneuve in an uncompetitive Ferrari.

Lafitte qualified on pole, followed by the two Williams of Alan Jones and Reutemann, while Villeneuve qualified only seventh on the grid. At the start, Jones went into the lead, with Reutemann close behind, while Villeneuve charged through to third place after overtaking Prost at the first corner. As Villeneuve’s Ferrari was such that it was competitive only for the first few laps, thus he had made the decision to pass as many cars as possible on these first few laps.

After taking third place, he overtook reutemann by the end of first lap, and was promoted into the lead when Jones crashed and retired. Reutemann later fell behind Laffite and Watson, but held off Elio de Angelis in the Lotus, all of them along with Villeneuve, now ran in a closed together pack with Villenuve in the lead.

Villeneuve tried to extend his lead at the straights as his car was competitive there, but at the corners, his advantage again vained as his rivals again closed up the gap. Tactically, Villeneuve placed his car at the right places in the corners, and never gave a chance to Laffite to pass him.

As the end of the race approached, all the five cars remained closed together and Villeneuve took the chequered flag by just 0.22 seconds from Lafitte, who was followed by Watson, Reutemann and Angelis. Incredibly all the five drivers were covered by just 1.24 seconds, and thus etching one of the most closest and historical wins in Formula 1.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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